Democrats Make Case for Damsby Chris Mulick, Herald staff writer
Tri-City Herald, October 10, 2000
Tired of watching Republicans stake their claim to being the sole defenders of the four lower Snake River dams, a Democratic quartet stumped for itself and presidential candidate Al Gore in Richland Monday.
"Just saying no is not enough," said U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who accused Republicans of channeling all their energy into opposing dam removal, leaving little for finding other salmon recovery solutions.
Monday's game of political pingpong did little to shine any new light on the issue.
What Murray, U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks and congressional hopefuls Maria Cantwell and Jim Davis didn't say may have been as significant as what they did. Though they used strong language to express their desire to find alternatives, they didn't say they'd be willing to pull breaching off the table unequivocally.
This summer, Gore expressed the same sentiment during a trip to the Tri-Cities without ever using the word "dams."
"Our resolve is absolutely intense," Murray said. "What more is there to say?"
Plenty, Republicans counter. Without drawing a line in the sand as Republican candidates have, Democrats leave the door cracked open for breaching, some say.
"That's a huge distinction," said U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, a Pasco Republican who is being challenged by Davis.
"They're working very hard to keep the door open slightly and keep it on the table," said Cynthia Bergman, a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., who faces Cantwell in the Nov. 7 election. "It sounds like nothing has changed."
Even so, the Democrats say they also recognize the importance of the four dams to the Mid-Columbia economy and say more energy should go toward finding a solution that satisfies the Endangered Species Act so long-term decisions aren't made by a federal judge.
"The ESA is not going to go away so let's get over it," said Davis, a Douglas County Public Utility District commissioner who earlier had criticized Hastings from making the fate of the dams a national issue.
Cantwell accused Republicans of playing politics with the issue, and Murray said Gore will be willing to consult with Mid-Columbians to help develop a plan that won't involve dam breaching.
"Just saying no doesn't save any salmon or keep us out of court," said Murray, the only one of the four not running for office this year.
Instead, Republicans are using the dam issue to draw attention from other issues, such as education and health care, Murray charged.
"We know it is the backbone of the community," she said of the dams. "We are committed to make sure that remains."
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